Friday, July 27, 2012

Celebrity Friday: Lesbian Genius Chemist Carolyn Bertozzi

Carolyn Bertozzi is the T.Z. and Irmgard Chu Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at University of California at Berkeley. She is also openly lesbian, one of the rare openly LGBT scientists. She is also something of a superstar in her chosen field, as a quick perusal of her biography makes clear:
She completed her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Harvard University in 1988 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1993. After completing postdoctoral work at UCSF in the field of cellular immunology, she joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1996.

Prof. Bertozzi's research interests span the disciplines of chemistry and biology with an emphasis on studies of cell surface glycosylation pertinent to disease states. Her lab focuses on profiling changes in cell surface glycosylation associated with cancer, inflammation and bacterial infection, and exploiting this information for development of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. In addition, her group develops nanoscience-based technologies for probing cell function and methods for protein engineering.

Prof. Bertozzi has been recognized with many honors and awards for both her research and teaching accomplishments. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Some awards of note include the Lemelson-MIT award for inventors, Whistler Award, Ernst Schering Prize, MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry, Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award, and Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award of the Protein Society. Her efforts in undergraduate education have earned her the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award and the Donald Sterling Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
I had the good fortune of having lunch with Prof. Bertozzi during a visit to the National Science Foundation last month, and attended her Invited Distinguished Lecture at the agency. Her talk was incredible, very funny and demonstrated her ability to communicate the nature of her very complicated work to a broad audience.

I think it is important to recognize people like Prof. Bertozzi as examples of people who should be more famous, thus she is my pick for today's Celebrity Friday.

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